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Rogue Traders interview - Rockin' the neighbours

Author: Stuart Evans
Wednesday, 2 November 2005
Thanks to a recent record the Rogue Traders are back with a bang. Stuart Evans talks to James Ash from the band.

It's amazing what one record can do. Case in question is recent sensation Voodoo Child by the Rogue Traders. It's been two years since the Traders last graced the Australian charts, but that all changed thanks to Neighbours minx Natalie Bassingthwaighte and some astute musical choices. Her voice, combined with the drums and rifts, made Voodoo Child an overnight success and put James Ash and Steve Davis, collectively knows as The Rogue Traders, well on the comeback trail.

Having arrived from England, Ash has been in Australia for over 12 years, but his accent remains strong as we start to talk. "It's funny, when you get with another English person you start to speak cockney and the accent comes out more," he laughs, picking up on my English accent.

Traditionally known as a dance act, a shifting of styles has occurred with new album 'Here Comes the Drums'. Bassingthwaighe's introduction signalled a new era with, not only a new singer, but a new sound. "At the risk of sound arrogant, dance is not a broad enough term. We made a decision that we had to think of ourselves as a band, and as such had to record as one," he says.

For Traders to continue, they had to re-invent themselves, which he says played an important step into what we now hear. "Rock is the music which mostly inspires us. The last Blur album was wicked, as that was the music that was inspiring us to make records. We went through 6 to 8 months of writing shit music. We were writing a lot of tracks but writing a lot of crap. We used rock and came up with something which soon became the focal point."

Interestingly enough, the change in Traders musical direction can be harked back to arguably their greatest triumph - winning the ARIA award for best dance single with their INXS sampled One of a Kind. Ash explains that because One of a Kind become a commercially friendly hit, both him and fellow partner Davis were immediately typecast as producers and not artists. "We can write our own songs, but I guess being typecast as producers wouldn't allow us to showcase our writing ability," he laments.

The main difference with the Traders of old compared to now is that they are now a band. Not electronic artists or djs, but a band who play musical instruments to create a sound that has more in common with punk and rebellion than dance music. He says that they were at a point of no return with conventional dance music, and that the natural evolution was to make a sound which wasn't… well, them. "I learnt to enjoy rock music," he states. "The '80s was all about electronic music and hip hop. My brother was a break-dancer so I was surrounded by hip hop, but I love experimental music. My favourite band was Tangerine Dream as they influenced me greatly."

Traders are like the Sex Pistols versus The Prodigy; a mix of everything and anything. It was a deliberate ploy to keep Bassingthwaighte out of the public's attention for the initial release of Voodoo Child, instead opting to build a following in the underground, where people tend not to get swept up in the emotion of having a famous face lead the group. The move has paid off, but Ash admits to being apprehensive of being typecast as another producer who used a soap star for leverage. "I was shit scared at first," he laughs. "We wrote Voodoo Child with a female in mind. We auditioned a lot of people, but she was recommended to us by a mutual friend. We didn't know what to expect when she auditioned."

Bassigthwaighte's audition performance stood out from the horde of potential leads and was soon announced as the group's newest member. Despite her soap status, Bassigthwaighte has over 12 years of professional stage experience. Ash says that they hatched a plan to release Voodoo Child without saying who the singer was, thus avoiding the inevitable h
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